Cobb: What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed - fully understood - that sticks; right in there somewhere.
The Los Angeles Lakers planted an idea in our minds this summer. This is a championship level team. This is a team that can deliver a parade down Figueroa. This is the team. Some were resistant to accepting this idea; questioning their age, their personnel, and their ability to jell as a team. Yet that idea in our head certainly didn't look anything like the Lakers last night as they were pounded for 48 minutes by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Surely, even the most pessimistic of visions didn't involve the Lakers assigning Earl Clark to slow down Kevin Durant. Surely, Robert Sacre was never supposed to play extended minutes at this point in the season, let alone starting during a Friday night prime time game on ESPN. Surely, Jordan Hill was never pegged out to undertake season ending surgery just as he was coming into his own off the bench.
This season has been grueling. There's no wind left to be knocked out at this point, only further to fall down this bottomless pit. Still, that idea has taken full hold. It's hooked on onto our brains, our hearts, and pulses with every idea and every word regarding this team
This is the Lakers. This can't end this way.
Should the Lakers have even been in the same realm of the Thunder Friday night? Sure, you have Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, but what else? With their defense still being far from figured out, the Lakers had no way to build a safe haven as the storm of offense that is the Oklahoma City Thunder ravaged Staples Center. Kevin Durant dominated the game as he scored 42 points on an absurd 16-25 shooting night. It didn't matter who the Lakers threw at him, Durant was there on a mission to lead his team in Los Angeles. The depleted Lakers were never to have a chance. And they didn't.
As the three-point shots continued to mock the Lakers as they refused to go through the net, the Lakers offense quickly turned into Thunder offense. Going 6-28 from beyond the arc isn't going to get the job done. After having a stretch of extremely hot shooting, the Lakers have now turned it around and are an embarrassment with each shot they let fly away from their hands from deep. Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace (especially), and Kobe Bryant aren't getting the job done.
Still, the idea lives on. It breathes as if it's a living organism. Perhaps it was planted long ago and has lived on as residuary. With each title it has only grown stronger. With each jubilant moment of ultimate success it has dug deeper into our core. These are the Lakers, one of the greatest sports franchises of all time. They've imprinted memories into us that send shivers down our spines. Chills from nose to toes. There's no explanation as to why things have gone so dramatically wrong this season, but there's still that irrational hope. Maybe it's a glimmer. Just a speck still floating in the depths of our soul like a dust particle after wiping off the kitchen table before sitting down for a cup of Folgers coffee. But it's there. It's always there.
Kobe Bryant wasn't able to pull out a win on his own individual brilliance, which was more of an individual average-ness last night. As he shot 8-23 on the night for his 28 points the Lakers fell further and further behind Oklahoma City. Steve Nash played 29 minutes and put together 7 points (3-6 shooting) and 7 assists, a very modest line for the point guard. Metta World Peace was active as always, but perhaps to a fault as he shot 5-18 (1-9 from deep). Antawn Jamison contributed 19 points off the bench, but calling his defensive abilities "limited" would be an understatement. This is only magnified against a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder who can pick a team apart in individual match-ups just as they can move the ball around till they find a seam to shred apart. Without Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard to run any offense through the Lakers looked like a team that didn't have very many options to attack the Thunder with.
There's that nagging idea, though. This is without Dwight Howard. This is without Pau Gasol. This is with a team that needed time to learn how to play together and have had only a supremely limited amount of time to do so while injuries ravage their season. Whether it was Steve Nash's leg, Pau Gasol's tendinitis and now concussion, Dwight Howard's shoulder and clear lack of dominance as he returns to form, or an array of issues the Lakers have faced through the season they've only played a limited amount of time together as a team. The 5 man core of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard have played a total of 116 minutes together thus far through the season. The equivalent of just under 2.5 games.
That idea, that hope, that parasite rears it's head yet again. What exactly is a parasite?
1. an animal or plant that lives in or on another (the host) from which it obtains nourishment. The host does not benefit from the association and is often harmed by it - Dictionary.com
With each disheartening Lakers loss, whether it be single games, 6 game stretches, or something away from the court like losing Jordan Hill for the season due to injury, that parasite pinches just a bit harder. Clinging on for dear life. Feeding off of, and into, the hope that the Lakers can still turn this all around despite what our eyes tell us: an atrocious defense, old legs, and the wrath of the basketball gods striking down the purple and gold around every corner.
One game a time. This season is now to be taken one game at a time. Every individual win means more now than ever as the chase for a playoff seeding is in the balance. Unfortunately for the Lakers, they're also falling further away from reaching the playoffs-- one game at a time.
Still, the parasite lives on. The hope lives on. The idea lives on. The Los Angeles Lakers live on.
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